piccure+: lens correction at its best?

A few months back, I heard about a new software, that is developed by a company in Tübingen, just a few kilometers away from Stuttgart. Piccure+ promises to correct optical aberrations of lenses and camera shake. I found that promise more than interesting and put the software to the test.

Let me quote their website, so that you know, what they claim to achieve:

piccure+ uses a novel method that essentially inverts the optical processes that cause images to look blurry….
piccure+ fixes errors specifically for the image at hand. There are significant copy-to-copy variations in both lenses and camera bodies. This limits the effectiveness of “lens profiles” that are only specific to your lens model, but not to the actual lens you got, let alone to your camera body.
piccure+ uses a process called deconvolution to reverse the blur. This is much more complex than the classical “unsharp masking” operations and can correct complex blurs (e.g. coma, spherical aberrations). It’s extremely difficult to do well.
Currently, piccure+ is the only solution capable of correcting spatially varying optical aberrations by means of blind deconvolution. Other tools may promise you deconvolution but they do not account for the variation of optical aberrations across the image. With piccure+, you get the most advanced tool currently on the market to correct those aberrations.

What a promise! You can find more information on their website.

So, let’s put piccure+ to the test. I chose photos taken with different lenses, some handheld, some on a tripod, some a little blurry, some with lenses, that are softer. The result was striking – I honestly did not expect that. Does it differ from the normal sharpening process in Lightroom. IMHO, yes – I had the impression, that especially in very difficult situations, piccure+ gave me a much cleaner and better result. Especially lenses, that have problems in the corners really will profit from piccure+.

Reducing camera shake also was an interesting promise. Don’t expect, that piccure+ will correct everything, but with smaller “shakes”, it really provides stunning results. The picture of the buzzard, taken handheld at 400mm and with the need of a larger crop, profited enormously. Even though VR was active, the photo was so blurry, that I would not have used it before the correction by piccure+.

Stunning reduction of blur & camera shake
Stunning reduction of blur & camera shake

As amazing as the results may be, I still did notice a few flaws. Sometimes, in Lightroom the reimported pictures are mirrored. Support suggested to re-install the software – this might have been caused by the exif-module not being properly installed the first time. I’ll monitor that.

With some few pictures, I got strange results, when applying “lens+” correction. Even with minimum (“micro”) strength at best rendering quality, a few single pictures looked unnaturally sharp and overprocessed. But these were isolated cases, and by turning up the strength to “normal” or switching over to “motion+” processing, I got no such problems and a good sharpening result (see the “14mm” comparison picture below). Support cannot fully explain that behaviour, but pointed out, that piccure+ works with “adaptive algorithms” and suggested (like I did) to choose a different processing strenght level, while they were working on “making our algorithms more stable”.

If you process pictures that rely on Bokeh: be careful with the applied strength of piccure+.  piccure+ claims to not affect bokeh, but my impression was “not entirely all the time”. If you want to be on the safe side: apply piccure+ in photoshop on a layer and mask the bokeh, so that the transition to and the creamy bokeh itself are not affected. If you shoot with high ISO, be prepared, that sensor noise will also be enhanced – so be careful what settings you use. And: the bigger the picture size, the longer it takes to render. With a 36 Megapixel photo, and the “Quality+” setting (best rendering quality, don’t use anything else!) it can take up to 15 minutes processing time on my MacBook Pro Retina 2,6 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 16GB RAM.

I just wish, piccure+ would offer batch processing from within Lightroom (select multiple pictures there to process) – batch processing right now only is available via the (included) standalone application.

Here is a gallery with comparison screenshots, so you can judge for yourselves:

piccure+ is a most welcome addition to my toolset for both Lightroom and Photoshop and has become an integral part of my workflow. Applied thoughtfully and with care, it will provide stunning results – even the sharpest lenses on a 36MP camera will profit from piccure+.

Bottom line: piccure+: lens correction at its best? Yes, piccure+: lens correction at its best!

Of course, I will not end this review without a gallery of photos I used piccure+ with.